How does policy lead to criminalization and poverty in Canada?

Guest post by Brandon Hay, founder of the Black Daddies Club

In the following post I will be looking at how certain policies re-enforce imprisonment and marginalization of certain bodies living in Toronto (or on a wider level Canada). It is severely problematic how Canada’s government creates continued inequity for certain bodies living in certain areas in this state, through its bills, acts, and other legislation. Some of these policies that do more harm to marginalized Canadian Bodies are: Bill C-10, Bill -43 and their effects on racialized bodies in Canada; also the Ontario Safe Street Act (SSA) which targets homeless people in Canada. There are also policies that criminalize and further marginalize some individuals such as sex workers, here are four sections in the Criminal Code, namely sections section 210, section 211, section 212, and section 213; which put these individuals further towards the margin and place them in precarious positions.

“Bill C-10 will require new prisons; mandate incarceration for minor, non-violent offences; justify poor treatment of inmates and make their reintegration into society more difficult” –  (Source) Toronto Star

Even though the crime rate was going down in Toronto, the implementation of Bill C-10 has led to more surveillance in certain communities and the policing of certain bodies. The 13 priority neighbourhoods have seen an increase of police presence and surveillance since the bill came into effect. This is significant because in these priority communities are where Toronto’s racialized, marginalized and even criminalized live.

As of 2014 these 13 priority neighbourhoods have been renamed to Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and the number of communities has grown from 13 to 31. One has to ask the question will this change of increased number of ‘priority’ communities increase the amount people of colour being arrested and ending up in the prison system?

It is also important to note that if you are a person of colour who has been recently released from the prison system and had an encounter with the police in these communities your chances of going back to prison increases. With an increased chance of going to prison, this would make navigating the sphere of parenthood even that much more challenging because if you are a father in and out prison it makes it almost impossible to co-parent and co-provide for your family. So the joy of parenthood would then become a burden; that would then fall on a sole parent or family members or worst case (in my opinion) the state i.e. Children’s Aid Society.

A police once told me that the most popular times for youth to commit crimes is between the times of 4:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. The reason for this is that it is usually at 4:00 P.M. that most youths are finished school and after 9:00 P.M. they are home, eating supper or getting ready for bed. However, in-between those times is where after school programs (such as sports, extracurricular activities and lessons) would take place but if you don’t have the resources such as money to pay for these for fee programs or have the right networks that can point you in the direction of free programs the chances getting into trouble due to idleness or even boredom increases dramatically. Even if you have found a free program that is effective, these programs are being cut due to government cutbacks in social services in Canada. Without relevant and engaging after school programs these youth run the risk of being idle, bored and even mischievous and

Most of these youth being arrested are being arrested for petty misdemeanour crimes. However, due to the “tough on crime” Bill C-10 there is now new and increased mandatory minimum sentences; which increases the chances of these young men of colour living in these communities getting arrested and getting criminal records from an early age.

The Omni bill looks to act as catalyst into the cycle of imprisonment; as it ensures longer time spent in prisons and this has shown that longer prison times are a predictor for reoffending and ending up back into the prison system. It is important to also note that young men of colour have a higher chance of getting arrested or charged when engaged by the police over petty crime versus white offenders of similar crime.

For more information about Bill C-10, which was passed by the Federal Government in 2012, and is typical of the “tough on crime” legislation passed by the Harper Conservatives, visit: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=5465759

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